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Prague, Czech Republic

PRAGUE – the capital of the Czech Republic, has always played an important role in the history of the country and Europe. Since the Middle Ages Prague has been famous as one of the most beautiful cities of the world and has been attributed adjectives such as “golden“, “hundred-spired“, “the crown of the world“. The unique character of the city is also partly a consequence of its natural environment: Prague, similar to Rome built on seven hills, was built on nine hills along the Vltava river, which flows through the city for a distance of 31 km and forms a perfect unit with the city. The dominant features of the city architecture are reflected in the river: towers, church spires and cupolas, palaces and town houses, along with the greenery of gardens, parks and islands.

Prague was founded on the cross-roads of ancient trade routes at a site where the most varied spiritual and cultural currents merged. The history of the city begins with the founding of Prague Castle in the 9th century. Of the original stone buildings in pre-Romanesque style, a basilica remains from the second half of the 10th century, and forms the core of St George´s church. Among the preserved Romanesque structures in Prague, three renovated rotundas can be visited.

 

At the time of the founding of the Old Town of Prague at the beginning of the 13th century, the Romanesque style began to be replaced with the Gothic; the oldest structure in this style is the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia or the Old-New Synagogue, while St Vitus Cathedral, Charles Bridge, the Church of Our Lady before Týn etc. are examples of the prime of this style. The greatest flourishing of the Czech state occurred at this time, which will eternally be connected with the monarch Charles IV, who founded the famous Charles University in 1348, the first university in Central Europe. The late Gothic style is connected with buildings such as Vladislav Hall, the Powder Tower and the Old Town Hall with the Horologe.

In the 16th century the Renaissance style started to be favoured by the court aristocratic circles. The first and truly representative structure is the Royal Summer Palace along with many aristocratic palaces in Prague. The Church did not favour the Renaissance art; on the other hand, it was completely taken over in the 17th century by the Baroque style. Especially the Lesser Town is characterized by the Baroque style and the Church of St Nicholas forms a predominant feature of this area.

A number of styles alternated in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The most important buildings include the Classicist Estate Theatre, Neo-Renaissance National Theatre and Rudolfinum and the Art Nouveau Municipal House and Main Railway Station.

The period of the first half of the 20th century was influenced by the Czech Modern style and Architectural Cubism which was an original style, with no counterpart in contemporary international art.

Nowadays, Prague is an important European city that attracts visitors not only by the abundance of architectural gems the generations of our ancestors left us. It is a place where cultural, social and political events of international importance are held as well as a popular destination for trade fairs and congresses.

Information on the city of Prague

  Top Sights in Prague

The historic centre of Prague (Hradcany with Prague Castle, the Lesser Quarter, Old Town including the Charles Bridge and Josefov, New Town and Vysehrad) occupies an area of 866 ha and has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1992. The centre of Prague is characterised by winding alleys and constructions of all architectural styles – Romanesque rotundas, Gothic cathedrals, Baroque and Renaissance palaces, Art Nouveau, Classicist, Cubist and Functionalist houses and modern buildings.

Old Town Hall and Astronomical Clock. Arguably Prague’s most identifiable icon, the Astronomical Clock built into the façade of the Old Town Hall on Old Town Square continues to draw crowds waiting to see the hourly chiming of this amazing mechanical structure that dates to 1410.

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Prague Castle. Prague Castle is the largest castle complex in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Originally dating to the 9th century, this landmark, which surrounds St. Vitus Cathedral, bears the mark of each architectural and historical era that it has lived through. To this day, it serves as the seat of the Czech state.

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Charles Bridge. Prague’s oldest bridge, and one of its most iconic structures, is Charles Bridge, which connects Old Town with Malá Strana. Dating to 1357, it was originally called the Stone Bridge, or Prague Bridge, before being named Charles Bridge in 1870, after its founder King Charles IV.

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Malá Strana Bridge Towers. Flanking the entrance to Charles Bridge on the Vltava’s left bank, the Malá Strana Bridge Towers form an important part of the Lesser Town’s landscape. The towers were built about 200 years apart, and they served quite different purposes. Today, both are accessible to the public, and their uppermost levels offer good views of Charles Bridge and Malá Strana.

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Old Town Bridge Tower. The entrance gate to Charles Bridge from the Old Town river bank, One of the best examples of High Gothic architecture in all of Europe, the Old Town Bridge Tower forms the gate entrance to Charles Bridge from Old Town on the east side of the Vltava. The tower was completed in 1380 by the workshop of master builder Petr Parlér, who also designed St. Vitus Cathedral up at Prague Castle, and the foundations of the sandstone tower were laid together with the first stones of Charles Bridge.the most beautiful gate of Gothic Europe, was a masterpiece of the Court building works. It was finished before 1380. It is richly adorned with sculptures.

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Josefov (The Jewish Quarter). Despite being only a fraction of its former self, Prague’s Jewish Quarter comprises the best current complex of Jewish historical monuments in all of Europe. The smallest of Prague’s districts was walled off as a ghetto in 1096, following a pogrom against its inhabitants, who were mainly Jewish immigrants.

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The Powder Tower. The Powder Tower is a one of the original medieval gates to the Old Town built by Matej Rejsek in the Gothic style in 1475. In the 18th century, it served as a gunpowder depot, giving it its current name. In the late 19th century, it was rebuilt by J. Mocker, and it remains one of Prague’s most important medieval monuments.

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St Nicholas Church (Malá Strana). An eye-catching part of the Malá Strana skyline, St. Nicholas Church is one of the most significant buildings from the Prague Baroque period, notably for its copper dome and belfry, making it one of the most stylistically pure examples of High Baroque architecture north of the Alps.

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Petrín Lookout Tower. Rising up from atop the leafy Petrín Hill, which forms a backdrop to Malá Strana, the Petrín Lookout Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, although it is not a scale model. Built in 1891 for the occasion of the Jubilee Exhibition, the 60-meter-high tower has 299 steps (as well as an elevator) leading up to the top viewing platform.

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Church of Our Lady Victorious. This Malá Strana church is famous the world over for the Infant Jesus of Prague, or Bambino di Praga, which came from Spain and was given to the church by Polyxena of Lobkowicz in 1628. The 47-centimetre-tall wax-coated wooden figure is said to have once belonged to St. Teresa of Avila and to have worked miracles, making it a point of pilgrimage among many Roman Catholics.

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Loreto Prague is a complex of buildings that have become a Marian pilgrimage site. The central point is the Italian-style Santa Casa, or Holy House, which depicts in stucco and bricks the humble life of the Holy Family. The Our Lady of Loreta church was built by Giovanni Battista Orsi in 1626 – 1631.

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Vysehrad comprises a sprawling, walled fortification dating to the 10th century and containing several interesting historical sights, such as the Romanesque Rotunda of St. Martin, the Gothic Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Slavin Cemetery, where the nation’s most famous personages are laid to rest.

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Church of Our Lady Before Týn. The most important church on the right bank of the Vltava is unquestionably the Church of Our Lady Before Týn, also called Týn Church, which is also one of the most recognizable sights on Old Town Square.

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Adria Palace. Adria Palace is an important cultural monument of the modern architecture. It was built for Italian insurance company Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà, which had bought the original two-storey palatial residence at this place in about 1910.

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Golden Lane. At about the middle of the Jirská Street, there is a turning to the picturesque Golden Lane. In the past, it used to be called the Goldsmiths Lane, perhaps it served as dwelling for the goldsmiths. It was founded between the Romanic and the late Gothic fortifications at the Castle’s Northern side.

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Statue of Antonin Dvorák. The statue of Antonín Dvo?ák was unveiled on 4th June 2000 at the end of the famous festival Prague Spring in Jan Palach Square in front of the House of Artists. As early as 1949 the former Prague Municipal Authority decided that the statue would stand in the park near Rudolfinum and allotted its construction to sculptor Josef Wagner and architect Pavel Smetana. The former Minister of Culture, however, decided in 1951 that the statue of painter Josef Mánes would stand there.

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Basilica of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. The Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary is in its core a three-aisle Romanic basilica with a Gothic transept, prolonged in 1627, and with a Renaissance chancel. The church was built in the 3rd quarter of the 12th century. It was rebuilt in a Gothic style in the years 1258 – 1263, and this appearance outlived centuries. Historical research in the 1950s did not find proofs of the devastating fire in the 13th century, or of the destruction of the church by the Hussites

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Basilica of St James. The church was built at the Minorite Monastery founded under King Wenceslas I in connection with the establishment of Prague’s Old Town. One of the most attractive churches in the town, the coronation feast for the royal couple, John of Bohemia (John the Blind) and Elisabeth of Bohemia, was held here in 1311, After a destructive fire in the monastery, in 1319 King John of Bohemia founded a new Gothic church which was completed by Emperor Charles IV in 1374.

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On the 23rd April 1997, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk issued a decree on the basis of which the object acquired its original name again, Cathedral of St. Vitus, Václav and Vojtech. The cathedral has been consecrated to three saints: Prince Václav (canonized later) established the third church at the Castle around 925 – Rotunda of St. Vitus. He did so because he received a precious relic as a gift from the Saxon Emperor Henry I the Fowler – a bone from St. Vitus’ arm, which was deposited in the built rotunda. When St. Václav was murdered, the rotunda became a place of his tomb, and he himself became a patron and saint of all Czechs. His sanctuary is still here today.

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Wenceslas Square. Wenceslas Square – Václavské námestí /Václavák, is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities in the New Town of Prague, Czech Republic. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is part of the historic centre of Prague, a World Heritage Site

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The Dancing house was built in the years 1992 – 1996. The house that stood there before was destroyed during the American air bombing of Prague on the 14th February of 1945. In 1992 the land was bought by the Netherlander insurance company Nationale Nederlanden. They selected the building project from the architect Vlado Milunic and the worldwide acknowledged architect and designer Frank O. Gehry was invited to cooperate. This co-operation gave birth to a unique deconstructive building with plastic elements, which at the same time harmonizes with the surrounding buildings. It is one of the few Prague houses that dynamically enters the space of the street.

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The theatre’s new-Renaissance building had a plain predecessor. In 1858, the management of the Estates Theatre hired a land plot a little above today’s theatre, and architect Josef Niklas built a New Town Theatre there. It was also called In front of the Horses’ Gate, which was still standing back then. Czech plays were regularly staged here, with actors from the Estates and later also from the Provisional Theatre. On the 16th May 1868, when the foundation stone was laid to the National Theatre, New Town Theatre staged Smetana’s Dalibor for the first time, personally conducted by the composer. New Town Theatre was in operation until 1885 and then it was demolished.

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History of the National Theatre In 1845 an initiative of Czech patriots established the theatre cooperative that brought request for authorization of the establishment of Czech stone theatre to the Viennese government. The request has remained unanswered for the time being. In 1848 Josef Kajetán Tyl suggested organizing collections for the construction of the theatre building and in 1850 the establishment of the Commission for the establishment of the Czech National Theatre in Prague was permitted; the commission immediately issued a call to start a collections

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Probably the most famous wall at Kampa in Prague. It is covered by graffiti with love poetry, philosophical texts and images that was once created by the supporters of the hippie movement. Young people used to meet there in the 1980s after the death of John Lennon to honour his memory by leaving messages on the wall

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Christmas in Prague. The Prague Christmas markets – Vanocni trh – are open daily at the Old Town Square & Wenceslas Square. A ‘winter wonderland’ awaits, as visitors soak up the festive atmosphere, browse the stalls and enjoy Christmas carols, hearty food & hot wine. In Prague, the Christmas holidays – the most beautiful festive days of the year celebrating the birth of Jesus – are made special by the city’s charm and unique atmosphere. Come enjoy Christmas in Prague!

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Most Easter customs are based on the essence of a peasant’s life in the farming villages. These were celebrations of spring, when nature came back to life and various ceremonies were needed to ensure a good harvest and fortune in the upcoming farming year – in the folk tradition of Easter. The Christian and urban traditions of Easter were different. The Czech birch whip or pomlázka remained essentially untouched by the Christian Easter. The most popular traditions are colouring eggs and plaiting pomlázka.

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Prague Zoo had predecessors in the form of various menageries. The Lion’s Court at the Prague Castle at the time of Rudolf II was probably the most famous, It did not only breed lions as heraldic animals (a lion, a symbol of strength and courage was adopted as an attribute of the Czech state), but also other unique species such as orangutans and allegedly now extinct Dodo

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